You hear it every spring. From the beat writers, to sports talk radio, to social media sites like twitter, and probably from your own friends and loved one. It’s a credo spoken by every fan base for every team in MLB, including the Mets:
It’s of the utmost importance that the team comes out of the gate with a fast start.
It’s also a myth.
Every season I listened to people said it, and echoed it myself on numerous occasions. It makes a lot of sense on the surface. You want the team to start fast so there’s less public pressure, the GM/manager/owner may not make panicked moves, and provides a cushion if they were to go on a losing streak later.
Does it really matter though?
Let’s look at each reason for a moment:
1. It eases public pressure.
Does it truly though? The NY Media is a voracious animal, with so many options between newspapers, websites, blogs, twitter feeds, local and satellite radio, and TV stations for getting news and opinion to the public. These entities are in constant competition. Competition leads to pressure. They cannot ease the pressure of the coverage because that means someone else might get your eyes and ears to listen to their compelling story. It’s why the NYDN focused on the Santana contract in it’s backpage while every other newspaper focused on Santana the man.
Another indication of this is the coverage of the NY Knicks. Did the fast start really help ease the pressure of the media over the course of the season? Maybe slightly in Janurary, but even then every story was whether the bottom was going to fall out. At this point, the fast start is a far memory & the only way you’d know they’re second in the Eastern Conference is if you glanced at the standings.
2. Less likely of panicked moves from GM, Manager, and owner.
Unfortunately you can look at Mets history and see this is not always the case. The Black Friday of 2004 is probably the most memorable example. The Mets started the season strong enough to show a potential playoff chase, despite the roster still being flawed and rebuilding. Ownership forced the hands of GM and brought in Zambrano and Benson, at which point the Mets went into a tail spin. While the prospects given up for Benson never amounted to much, and Kazmir’s career was a mixed bag, had the Mets not had the fast start you can make the argument they would have been better off in both the short and long term.
3. Provides a cushion in case they lose later.
You can also look to the mistakes made by Willie Randolph & Omar Minaya in the collapses of 2007 and 2008. Perhaps if they had not gotten to such fast starts Omar would have done more to help those teams by way of mid-season trades, instead of standing pat and assuming they’d overcome the holes. Perhaps Randolph would have managed the bullpen and team better without the pressure of the lead. At minimum, had Mets won the same amount of games but won more games LATER in the season rather than EARLY, perhaps the collapses wouldn’t have been as devastated, instead feeling like they just fell short and something to grow on, similar to the 1998 season.
In both seasons, the early season push didnt seem to help ease the pressure of those two seasons, especially in 2008 where the entire team had pressure from fans and media as early as August about how they “better not do it again.”
In fact, the most memorable month in Mets history probably is the best proof that it does not matter WHEN you get the wins, it’s how many wins you have over the course of the season. The famous August run of 1969, that saw the Cubs with an “insurmountable” lead, surely the fast start will ease the pressure as they head into the playoffs, lose the division to those Amazin’ Mets.
This year the fast start means even less than normal. It has nothing to do with low expectations, but rather that the team in April and May is not the team we will see in July and August. The Mets are transitioning from the Omar Minaya “hired gun” era to the Sandy Alderson “build from youth” era. Gone are the Beltrans, Johans. By mid year we will see d’Arnaud, Wheeler, and potentially a slew of others. So why should I get worked up over whether the Mets get a fast start? It won’t ease the pressure for those kids, and it won’t make the transition this year any easier. The pressures both within and without will still be present.
Mets history proves it’s not WHEN you win that matters. It’s how MANY.
Enjoy the Mets 2013 Season. It may not be as victorious as we hope, but it should be memorable and interesting.
Posted by Robert Z